On Saturday, you may find yourself surrounded by people dressed in blue. This is because January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and in honor of this day, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) hosts the Blue Campaign – a nationwide movement to bring awareness to the dangers of human trafficking.
Human trafficking refers to a form of abuse and exploitation. It is the act of using force, fraud, or coercion to recruit, hide, transport, sell, or buy a person for sex, labor, or services as a slave. Human trafficking occurs in every country, including the United States. Although this is a national issue, Florida is one of the states where human trafficking is most likely to occur. In fact, it’s ranked third in the nation for potential human trafficking.
People with developmental disabilities are especially likely to experience abuse, neglect, or exploitation, which is why APD has a Zero Tolerance initiative in place to protect this vulnerable population from human trafficking and other violations. The Zero Tolerance initiative is APD’s aggressive and proactive approach to dealing with all forms of abuse, neglect, exploitation, or sexual misconduct committed against an individual with a developmental disability.
Awareness is a key part of this initiative, as it takes everyone in a community to take a stand against abuse. We are all responsible for recognizing and reporting abusive, exploitative, and neglectful behavior. In fact, reporting such behavior is required by law.
Signs of abuse may be physical, as many traffickers beat or torture their victims. However, often, the signs are less obvious. Abusers may lie, withhold wages, threaten harm, intimidate, humiliate, or make false promises of love or friendship and/or money or reward to manipulate their victims.
Human Trafficking Awareness Day offers an opportunity for us to educate ourselves on the issue, learn the signs, and report if we suspect anything. Here are some ways that you can participate in this awareness day and help bring an end to human trafficking and other forms of abuse:
- Take part in DHS’s Blue Campaign by wearing blue and sharing relevant social media content. The campaign’s website even has a library of social media posts that you can use to help promote the cause.
- Learn the signs of abuse. One good place to start is the Zero Tolerance initiative section of the APD website, where there is an extensive list of the signs associated with different types of abuse, among other educational resources.
- For an overview of APD’s Zero Tolerance initiative, read this brochure.
- Sign up for APD’s Zero Tolerance training, which is required for APD providers but is also available to the general public.
Remember, if you suspect that someone is being abused, neglected, or exploited, you are required by law to report them.
Call 911 if the person’s life or health is in immediate danger. Otherwise, you can report suspicious behavior by calling the Florida Abuse Hotline toll-free at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873), filing a report online at reportabuse.dcf.state.fl.us, or faxing a statement to 800-914-0044.
For more information on human trafficking or to report potential human trafficking situations, please visit https://humantraffickinghotline.org/.